Ray entered the apartment with a sigh, glad to be home after a hell of a day. After hanging up his coat, he walked toward the kitchen to get a glass of water, maybe poke around and see what could be thrown together for dinner. Or at least, that's what he meant to do, but the sight stopped him in the doorway. There were dirty bowls and pans everywhere – possibly every one they owned, stacked in the sink, on the countertops, and what the hell, Kowalski? Those pots had better not have been hot when he put them there, even a couple on the floor, along with a variety of large spoons, measuring cups and cutting boards. And every inch was covered in flour and/or other unidentifiable but very sticky-looking substances.
Something was boiling on the stove – not overflowing, amazingly – and a timer was counting down. Ray twitched, the need to clean warring with the equally strong need to make Kowalski do it. After explaining himself.
The timer dinged before he could shake off his indecision, and he was shoved aside as Kowalski came barreling past.
“What are you doing here,” Kowalski asked as he grabbed the lid off the pan, swore, pulled a hot pad off the counter and tried again, this time successfully removing the lid without injury. He peered in, haphazardly setting the lid on one of the empty pots still on the stove, and pulled a fork out of his back pocket, sticking it into the steaming pot, a frown of concentration on his face. After a few more pokes, he wrinkled his nose (in a not-at-all attractive way. Really.), stuck the fork back into his pocket, and re-set the timer.
“So,” Kowalski said, as he turned to prop himself against the counter, totally uncaring of the mess he was leaning against (in a still completely unattractive way. Especially with his hair even more crazy than usual, dusted with flour, and a small smear of something just to the right of his mouth. Something that needed to be licked off. By someone.).
Ray shook himself from that train of thought, parroting the question back. “So?”
“So why are you home so early? And alone?” He peered around Ray to the room behind. “You lose Fraser? Red suit should make that kind of tough to do.”
“He had an errand to run, should be home soon. Soon enough that there's no way he'll miss seeing this disaster zone, no matter how fast you clean.”
Kowalski ran a hand through his hair, wincing when it got caught in something. A small puff of flour drifted down as he freed his fingers. “Guess it is kind of a mess,” he acknowledged, looking around like he hadn't realized just how trashed the place was.
“Kind of a mess? Kowalski, Ma's house after Frannie's holy terrors have visited is kind of a mess. This is ready to be declared unsuitable for human life and condemned. What the hell were you doing?”
Kowalski's frown was back, this time mulish and honest to god unattractive. It was the frown that told Ray he'd crossed a line he'd never even seen coming. Shit.
“Ray,” he started, but the buzz of the timer interrupted him. Kowalski turned away and did the poking routine again, this time satisfied. He left the timer buzzing as he turned off the stove and cleared enough space in the sink to reveal a colander. Knowing there was no point in trying to talk until Kowalski was ready, Ray turned and went to the bedroom, carefully pulling off his tie and hanging it up, along with his suit jacket. He unbuttoned the top two buttons of his shirt with a sigh, thought a second, then went ahead and stripped out of his work clothes, exchanging them for a plain charcoal t-shirt and jeans. No need to ruin a perfectly good suit cleaning the kitchen. Which he would definitely be doing now.
Ray was just putting away his shoes when he heard a bark, followed by a hearty, “Hello Ray! Ray! We're home,” signaling Fraser's arrival. Which would probably be a good thing, as long as he didn't flip out about the state of the kitchen.
“Go find Vecchio,” he heard, so that was something, especially since it didn't sound too hostile.
Fraser entered their room alone, which considering all the bits of food everywhere was no surprise. Added bonus – time with Dief always improved Kowalski's mood, especially when the two of them thought they were getting away with something.
Fraser was unhooking his lanyard when he came in, smile widening when he saw Ray.
“It's always nice to see you in casual attire,” he said, leaning in to kiss Ray lightly as he unbuckled his belt. Ray stopped him with a hand on his arm as he went to move past, turning him back for a slightly longer kiss.
“You're gonna want to dress down too, Benny.”
Fraser quirked an eyebrow. “Am I?”
“Unless you're planning on ignoring the disaster area that is our kitchen, yes.”
That got Fraser to raise his other eyebrow.
“Kowalski cooked,” Ray clarified. “Or just threw food around as target practice. Honestly, could be either one based on what I saw.”
“Ah, that explains Diefenbaker's eagerness to see him. And why Ray directed me to you without a proper hello.” He crossed his arms, looking like he was bracing himself. “How bad is it really? I expected Ray to have slept the day away after the stake out.”
“Me too, but nope. Probably overdid it on the coffee – you know how strong he makes it.”
“So we can expect a crash soon.”
“Possibly a crash and burn. He wasn't too happy with my reaction when I saw the place.”
“Hence your change of clothes,” Fraser correctly guessed. “Is it a peace offering, or are you going to be unable to stop yourself?”
“You take a look and try to keep from cleaning it up.”
Fraser tilted his head. “That bad?”
“He must've been in there all day. Take his normal level of chaos and multiply it by like, a hundred.”
Fraser put down the shirt he'd chosen and pulled a more worn-looking one from the drawer.
Ray laughed. “Now you got it.”
Fraser pulled the shirt over his head; Ray moved to smooth it over his stomach. “Ready to see if a sleep-deprived Kowalski can cook?”
Fraser nodded, the serious look on his face betrayed by the twinkle in his eyes.
They were stopped, however, by Kowalski blocking the entrance to the kitchen, arms crossed and expression serious. Ray could see Dief just behind him, happily licking a bowl clean. “Nope, this area is off limits to the two of you.”
“Hello to you too, Ray,” Fraser responded, prompting both Rays to roll their eyes. It didn't stop Kowalski from leaning in for a kiss. Ray must've made a face; when Kowalski pulled away he just shook his head and pointed two fingers at him. “You had your chance. Not my fault you wanted to complain instead.”
Ray opened his mouth to protest, but Fraser stopped him, one hand on his arm, the other on Kowalski's.
“Ray, I'm sure Ray has a reason he wants us to stay out of the kitchen. Beyond the state of it,” he added before Ray could say a word. “And Ray, from what I can see, you can't be surprised by Ray's reaction.” Kowalski glanced at the room behind him, wincing a little as he reluctantly nodded.
“All right then. May I ask what the reason might be for this whirlwind of kitchen activity today?”
“Couldn't sleep,” Kowalski replied with a shrug, glancing away from the two of them. “And I got this idea, wanted to run with it.”
“Well, something certainly smells interesting,” Fraser responded with a smile. Taking a whiff, Ray had to agree. A variety of odors, some he recognized and others he most definitely did not, permeated the apartment. He wasn't quite sure it was good; whatever Kowalski had made had a hell of a lot of different things going on. But it didn't smell awful either. Fraser could probably identify exactly what they were having, but it was too jumbled up for Ray to figure out.
It was the right thing to say; Kowalski's face lit up like a freaking Christmas tree. “And it's almost ready. Timing would've been perfect if you two hadn't come home early.”
“Is there anything we can do to help?”
To Ray's utter lack of surprise, Kowalski nodded. Of course he was being nice to Benny. “Just set the table,” he said, adding, "I'll get the plates and stuff," as he turned back toward the kitchen, wiping his hands on his jeans. Given the state of them, it did practically nothing to wipe off any stray bits of food, but Fraser didn't say a word. Ray had no doubt he'd be wiping them down with a washcloth from the linen closet before they hit the table, though.
The table didn't take too long to prep (even including making sure the dishes and silverware were actually clean), but amazingly, true to his word Kowalski sauntered in carrying a large plate with several covered serving bowls just as the last fork was put in place. He gave them a warning not to peek as he set the bowls down, then dashed back into the kitchen.
Ray looked at Fraser, who just shrugged. Rolling his eyes, Ray sat down to wait. In came Kowalski with a huge serving tray that Ray didn't even know they had, covered in what looked like lumps of dough.
"Like I said, I couldn't sleep, and I've been thinking about pierogi for days." It clicked. He'd talked to his folks early in the week, and while he hadn't said anything to Ray or Fraser about it, Ray knew it hadn't been the best conversation, at least not if his dad had been on the phone. Acceptance was not Damien Kowalski's strong suit.
"So you figured you'd make enough to feed a small army?" Ray asked.
"I got on a roll," Kowalski countered. “Most of them are your basic recipe - potato, onion and cheese. Some have that spicy Italian sausage you like so much, Vecchio. A couple are filled with the leftover chicken marsala we had the other night. None of them have sauerkraut – I can only take tradition so far, and that is definitely a line I won't cross.”
“And in the bowls?” Fraser asked.
“In this one we have a sour cream sauce,” he said, taking off the lid with a flourish. “There's also marinara, alfredo, and applesauce.”
“You had time to do all this just today?” Ray asked, torn between doubtful and impressed.
“I maybe thawed out some of the sauces in the freezer, but yeah. I mean, dough's pretty much dough, so it was just mixing the different fillings.”
“Well, they look wonderful, Ray. A very unique blending of your and Ray's ancestries.”
Kowalski smiled and shook his head. “Oh, don't think you're left out, Benton Fraser.”
“Give me a break. Of course I included you. You're part of all this -” he waved his hand to indicate the three of them, “aren't you?”
“That I am.”
“Okay, then. It's just, I figured some of those Saskatoon berries you had in the freezer might make a good dessert filling, and I had extra dough, so I played around some. There's also some PB&J, and a few with chocolate and banana."
"I'm only seeing one big tray of food. Is it too much to hope that you maybe left the dessert ones in the kitchen?" Ray asked, eyeing the platter dubiously.
Kowalski rubbed the back of his neck. " I had them separated at first, but I was running out of room, so they're pretty much all jumbled together. Maybe don't dip them into anything before you take a bite."
"It will be a culinary adventure," Fraser said with a smile as he picked up the serving spoon. As always, Ray was impressed with how Benny was able to immediately put a positive spin on things. He was also hungry, so while Fraser dished out some of the pierogi, he put some sauces on his plate.
"This better be worthy of my Ma's recipes," he said as he eyed the platter, trying to figure out what might be inside the pierogi by shape and size.
"They'll go together like coffee and Smarties," Kowalski returned, winking at Fraser.
"If I get any of those berry ones, they're yours, Benny."
"You might find you like them, Ray."
"They're part of pemmican," Ray countered. "That automatically puts them in the questionable category."
“Ray is willing to try them.”
“I rest my case.”
“Keep up like that and you won't be getting dessert of any kind.” If Kowalski's tone hadn't made what he meant by dessert clear, the waggling eyebrows and ridiculous leer would have done the trick.
“Maybe I don't want dessert,” Ray shot back easily as he cut what turned out to be a cheese and potato pierogi in half. He took a bite, then dipped it into the alfredo sauce before taking another. Not bad at all. “But a reward for helping return our kitchen to its previous state of cleanliness? That I'd consider.”
The meal turned out to be mostly delicious, though only Fraser ended up eating the Saskatoon berry pierogi. And Ray and Fraser ended up doing all the cleaning, as Kowalski had indeed crashed (but not burned) after dinner, just like Ray had predicted.
So there may not have been any dessert, but Kowalski definitely showed them both his appreciation the next morning.